The alleged author of one of the largest leaks of US military secrets appeared before a Boston judge on Friday, after being swiftly arrested, and has been remanded in custody. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 15 years for violating the Espionage Act.
Jacques Teixeira is only 21 years old, and he’s a member of the Massachusetts National Guard Air Division. He was discovered and arrested because he didn’t even hide his identity in the billing data of the social network he used to make the leaks, Discord.
The leaks began last year, though the documents weren’t widely distributed until just a couple of months ago. The New York Times reported on them last week, and that’s when the Pentagon and the White House learned about the kidnapping. The FBI has been investigating for a week, working with several members of the Discord network group to which Teixeira allegedly leaked the stolen documents.
An affidavit from one such witness, released by the FBI, states that Teixeira switched from copying documents in his possession to taking them home and photographing them because he was “concerned he might be caught blogging at work.” In the photographs he took, in his home, there were clues that helped the FBI identify him: tiles, tables, shelves, office supplies.
Handcuffed while reading outdoors
There he was arrested on Thursday without resistance. As helicopters flew over his residence near Boston, he read at a table on an outdoor patio, dressed in a red T-shirt and shorts. He is handcuffed and arrested by heavily armed FBI agents.
Teixeira’s military file reveals that he enlisted in the National Guard on September 26, 2019. He was serving in the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Base, in Cape Cod, a coastal city in Massachusetts. According to the FBI investigations, he made serious mistakes after the leak, such as searching the military servers he was able to access for the word “leak” on April 6, the day the New York Times published the first information about it.
The leaks have embarrassed the United States, reflecting, among other things, the resistance of its allies to support Ukraine for fear of retaliation from Russia. Since those cables were widely publicized, Joe Biden’s government has worked to contain potential diplomatic and military fallout, and restricted the flow of classified cables to its internal servers.
Teixeira has been described by other members of the group he ran on Discord as extremist, intolerant, government suspicious, conspiracy theorist, anti-Semitic and gun-loving. The National Guard, to which he belongs as a soldier, is a reserve corps that can be activated in emergencies within the United States and on military missions abroad.
To be hired, Teixeira had to undergo some rigorous examinations and tests in theory. He had access to classified documents since 2021, for his work in the technical department of the Military Intelligence Department, although he was not an intelligence analyst.
The question now remains of how a Massachusetts National Guard technician accessed documents of this importance, which revealed important information that might even reveal collaborators with the United States abroad. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a statement released after the arrest, said the Pentagon was already reviewing its “information control, accountability and access procedures” to prevent such a leak from happening again.
The Pentagon itself has publicly qualified Teixeira of delinquents. “This is a premeditated criminal act, and a violation of our rules,” US defense spokesman Pat Ryder said after the arrest.
The judge charged Teixeira with two counts: unauthorized theft and transmission of national defense information and unauthorized theft and keeping confidential documents or materials. The next court session will be on Wednesday. In court, the defendant only said “yes” when the judge asked him if he was aware of his rights. According to eyewitnesses quoted by CNN, at the end of the hearing, Teixeira’s father, who was in the room, shouted: “I love you, Jack.” Teixeira did not look back, but replied, “Me too, Dad.”
The documents revealed, for example, that the United States was spying on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and that it had learned from this that he had proposed using kamikaze drones – like those used by Russia – to attack the Rostov region. One of the cables describes, in great detail, a conversation between senior South Korean security officials about South Korea’s National Security Council concerns about a US request for ammunition for Ukraine.